Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday warned P25 billion additional budget for COVID-19 vaccines – on top of the P82.5 billion appropriated this year – could result in an oversupply of vaccines, or worse, lead to funds lost to corruption.
Senator Francis Pangilinan also sought a review on how the government has spent the budget for the vaccines amid the request of the Department of Budget and Management for additional funds.
“I hope the government can be more transparent,” Lacson said.
Crunching the numbers, Lacson said the P107.5 billion – once the additional P25 billion is released – is way too much for procuring the volume of vaccines needed to achieve herd immunity.
“The bottom line is this: It is not their money; it is the public’s. I can only hope the excess amount will not go to corruption,” he said.
“Has the government made a commitment to procure the vaccines at such prices? It is important that the officials concerned explain how they will spend the amount. If they have not committed to buy yet, they should exercise restraint in spending our resources which are severely limited already due to the pandemic,” he added.
Lacson said that if the P107.5 billion were to be used to buy Moderna vaccines at $26.83 (P1,383) per dose, it would be enough to cover 83.78 million doses.
If the amount were to buy Sinovac at P683 per dose, the amount would be enough for 157 million doses – more than the required volume to vaccinate at least 70 million Filipinos at two doses each to reach herd immunity.
“We are not blaming anyone but we should be careful with public funds,” Lacson said.
Pangilinan, for his part, said the Senate Committee of the Whole must reconvene to check on the progress of the vaccine rollout.
“We wrote to the Senate President about this matter last March and he said that he is open to reconvening. We hope we can do so even while in sine die adjournment so we can take necessary steps to further improve our vaccine rollout,” Pangilinan said.
Other signatories to the letter are Senators Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, Risa Hontiveros, Leila De Lima, and Nancy Binay.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier approved the release of an additional P2.5 billion pesos from the 2021 contingency fund for the procurement of 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
“We need to be clarified on the current disbursements and spending that’s why it’s important to convene the Senate Committee of the Whole,” Pangilinan said.
As of June 6, a total of 9,329,050 doses have so far been delivered to the Philippines from various manufacturers.